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Never Ending
(Page of 13)

Try this IMPs bidding problem:

South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
?

What do you bid?

South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
?

The natural reflex is to bid 6.

The question is whether we can meaningfully investigate a grand-slam.

The following approaches come to mind:

  • Play this situation as a forcing pass. Pass and then bid 6 as a pass-and-pull is a grand-slam trymessage.
  • Bid 5NT, implying two-places-to-play. Bid 6 next and hope partner gets the message.
  • Bid 6 as a heart raise. Convert 6 to 6 and hope partner gets the message.
  • Use a min-max signal with the placement of the card on the bidding tray.

Your choice?

South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
?

A theoretical (legal or illegal) approach might be argued as logical. However, there is lot of ambiguity involved with any grand-slam try. Given that we hold three keycards and the queen of trumps, it is unlikely that partner will ever accept our move.

The practical bid is 6.

A gutsy approach is to force to a grand-slam ourselves, but that is a bit too macho for my taste.

Partner puts down a suitable dummy in 6

North
874
K987643
A
AJ
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

The 5 is led.

Plan the play (at IMPs).

North
874
K987643
A
AJ
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

We rate to score 6 spades, 2 hearts, 1 diamond, and 2 clubs as 11 "top" tricks.

Candidates for the 12th trick are a diamond ruff in dummy, setting up the hearts, or a club finesse.

Playing theJ from dummy at trick 1 appears logical. It might deliver the trick we need. If not, it helps preserve an entry to access the established hearts.

Trick one goes5-J-Q-K.

North
874
K987643
A
A
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

What next?

North
874
K987643
A
A
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

It feels natural to play one top trump.

If trumps split, declarer can pull trumps and ruff-out the hearts. Even if they split 4-0, the two entries necessary are present in dummy.

Play would go trumps,A, K, heart ruff,A, heart ruff,A, access dummy's hearts.

As you play the top trump, West shows out.

The situation now is:

North
87
K987643
A
A
South
KQ1095
A2
86
64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

What next?

North
87
K987643
A
A
South
KQ1095
A2
86
64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

There are fivecandidates:

  • Play four rounds of trumps and then set up hearts
  • Play three rounds of trumps and then set up hearts
  • Play no more trumps and try theA now
  • Cross to dummy, pick up trumps, and then set up hearts
  • Cross to dummy, hook the trumps, and ruff a diamond

How do you evaluate these choices?

North
87
K987643
A
A
South
KQ1095
A2
86
64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

None of the approaches is a lock.

Play four rounds of trumps and then set up hearts

East will knock out a minor-suit ace when he wins the fourth trump. Declarer lacks an entry to enjoy the long hearts when they split 4-0.

Play three rounds of trumps and then setup hearts

This improves on the previous approach. It helps cater to East holding four hearts with four trumps. However, the improvement is cosmetic, as the layout it caters to involves West holding two major-suit voids.

Play no more trumps and try theA now

TheA can be ruffed and the defense can remove a minor-suit entry to dummy. Declarer lacks an entry to enjoy the established hearts.

Cross to dummy, pick up trumps and then setup hearts

The need to cross to dummy uses up a key entry. Declarer can no longer cover a 4-0 heart split.

Cross to dummy, pick up trumps and then ruff a diamond

This seems like 12 easy tricks. Except the order would be A, 10, diamond ruff, intending to cross to theA.

The position would be

North
K987643
A
South
KQ95
A2
64

The lead is in dummy and two trumps are out. When a heart is led, and the suit splits 4-0, East can ruff and play a club. Declarer must suffer another heart ruff.

We conclude that declarer can no longer make with hearts 4-0.

We need to take a step back.

After trick 1, the position is:

North
874
K987643
A
A
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

Have another go?

North
874
K987643
A
A
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

The best play is to unblock the A and then cross to theA, discovering the 4-0 split.

North
87
K987643
A
South
KQ1095
A2
8
64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

Now: ruff the diamond, hook the spade, pull trumps, and claim.

6 spades + 2 hearts + 1 diamond + 1 diamond ruff+ 2 clubs = 12 tricks.

Elegant. Slight difference in timing the diamond ruff leads to a better outcome.

The key play is unblocking theA before testing trumps.

An easy play to find?

As a play problem, many strong players would be able to get this hand right.

To borrow a phrase from my upcoming book (very soon, I promise)

At-the-table play does not afford the level of vigilance a problem setting does.

One may not invest the energy required to cover a remote scenario.

To get the hand right, declarer needs to overcome the lethargy associated with, "This hand is cold,"the disappointment of "We've missed a grand slam," and the laziness of "Let's play a top trump to see if they split."

But then that is the nature of technique.

It requires pushing oneself from our preliminary assessment. Digging harder. Trying harder. Worrying more. Covering more.

It is never-ending!

Wait a second...

North
874
K987643
A
AJ
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

What if West has four trumps and a heart void?

Can we cater to that?

North
874
K987643
A
AJ
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

Indeed!

Our technique can be improved.

The best line involves a different play at trick 1: win theA, cash theA, cross to a trump.

If West shows out, ruff a diamond, hook a spade, pull trumps, and claim.

If East shows out, ruff a diamond, cross to the K, ruff a club, play a heart.

Even if the A is ruffed, declarer has 12 tricks : 6 spades, 1 heart, 1 diamond, 1 diamond ruff, 2 clubs, 1 club ruff.

Perfect?

North
874
K987643
A
AJ
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

Not quite.

This approach assumes that the second club trick stands up.

If West led a singleton club, he can ruff away this trick.

The 12 trick total on the previous page relies on the second club holding up.

Want to try again?

North
874
K987643
A
AJ
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P

There is indeed further scope to refining technique.

The best line is still to follow the approach of playing minor-suit aces from dummy at the first 2tricks.

Playing along recommended lines, the position as West ruffs the Kwould be

West
J642
10
QJ95432
10
North
873
K987643
A
AJ
East
QJ5
K107
Q987532
South
AKQ1095
A2
86
K64
W
N
E
S
3
3
5
6
P
P
P
D
0
6 South
NS: 0 EW: 0
10
A
2
4
1
1
0
A
10
6
2
1
2
0
3
3
A
2
3
3
0
8
3
7
7
1
4
0
J
Q
K
4
0
4
1
5

West is marked with 4 spades, at least 6 diamonds and 1 club.

If his shape is 4=2=6=1, hearts will run.

If his shape is 4=1=7=1, East will be squeezed in hearts and clubs.

All declarer has to do is run his trumps, ditching hearts from dummy and counting the number of clubs discarded by East.

If the last club in hand is not high, the last heart in dummy will be.

The Moral:Technique, indeed, is never-ending!

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